Gee on biblical historicity

John Gee continues to provide insights on issues related to the historicity of scripture, partially in response to David Bokovoy. … [Read more...]

DH-39 Scholarly Consensus?

The claim is often made by supporters of the Documentary Hypothesis that there is scholarly consensus on the validity of the theory.  This claim is exaggerated.  Neal Rappleye sent me the following quotations from  Carol A. Redmount, “Bitter Lives: Israel in and out of Egypt,” in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, ed. Michael D. Coogan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 79–121. “Among those who accept [the Documentary Hypothesis], however, major areas of dispute persist, including … [Read more...]

DH-38 We Don’t Know

Another remarkable characteristic of the Documentarians is their unwillingness to simply admit, “We just don’t know.”  What I have been trying to do in this series of blogs is explore the reasons for the problems and ultimate failure of the hypothesis, and thereby explain why I find the hypothesis unconvincing.  In my opinion the Documentary Hypothesis has been a century and a half-long exercise in academic futility.  Scholars are further from consensus now regarding the details of the Document … [Read more...]

DH 37- A Shrinking Theory?

One of the latest book-length defenses of the Documentary Hypothesis, Joel Baden’s The Composition of the Pentateuch (2012).  It is noteworthy for the fact that he is only willing to defend a much circumscribed version of the Documentary Hypothesis.  For Baden—and I agree with him here—the Documentary Hypothesis is a purely literary theory, with strict epistemological limits on what it can demonstrate.  Here is a summary of his conclusions (246-249).• “The literary question is primary and is … [Read more...]

DH-36: Four Degrees of Speculation

Documentarians generally claim that they can: 1- identify the four different sources within the Pentateuch; 2- reconstruct form those diverse sources the original documents J, E, D and P from which the received Pentateuch was composed; 3-  determine the original rival “theologies” and world views of the authors or composers of the four original documents; and 4- discover the date and the location of the composition of the original four documents.  Narrowly speaking, only one of these four steps … [Read more...]

DH-35: Literary Composition Techniques

As far as I can tell, there is no example of any other ancient Jewish book being composed the way the Documentarians claim the the Pentateuch was composed.  The closest example is probably the Temple Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls.  (See J. Charlesworth, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume 7: The Temple Scroll (2011); D. Swanson, The Temple Scroll and the Bible, (1995).)  The Temple Scroll is composed in part from passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy, with many additions from the author/redactor.  In … [Read more...]

DH-34: Dating the Sources

As I noted in DH-33, although there are various schools of thought, biblical scholars can’t agree on how many supposed sources contributed to the Pentateuch.  Unfortunately, things are even more complicated.  There is also no agreement concerning the date of J among those scholars who agree that there is in fact a J-source.  (Here is a summary of views of this who dispute the nature or existence of J in various ways; and more fully Dozeman, Thomas B; Schmid, Konrad A Farewell to the Yahwist? SBL, … [Read more...]

DH-33: How Many Sources?

The classical formulation of the Documentary Hypothesis posits four written sources for the Pentateuch, called J (Jahwist/Yahwist), E (Elohist), D (Deuteronomist), and P (Priestly).  Since its origin, the theory has morphed into many different variations.  When we try to understand the Documentary Hypothesis, we need to  recognize the extensive diversity in scholarly opinion regarding how many “documents” were supposedly used to form the Pentateuch.  There is also disagreement as to whether these … [Read more...]

DH-32: Source Criticism

Modern scholars attempt to clearly indicate their sources by footnotes.  Ancient scholars generally did not.  The Pentateuch explicitly refers to earlier sources quoted within the text.  For example, Genesis 5:1 describes a “Book (scroll/sefer) of the Generations of Adam.”  Exodus 15 claims to be quoting a “song unto Yahweh” (15:1).  Likewise, Deuteronomy 9:10 claims to be quoting tablets revealed by God prior to the final writing of the text.  Other similar examples make it clear that the Pentat … [Read more...]

It’s not Personal

Stephen Smoot made an insightful comment here: [Quoting Hamblin:] "But what they cannot do is avoid the logical and inevitable implications of what they believe. It is not bullying, insulting, nor demeaning to question and debate these matters."This reminds me of the reaction some had to my article "The Imperative for a Historical Book of Mormon" (online here: http://www.mormoninterpreter.c.... I was accused by many of wanting to exclude members of the Church who disbelieve in the Book of … [Read more...]